In a strategic move towards municipalizing drinking water services in the North Shore region, the Water Authority of the North Shore has hired Raftelis, a renowned financial consultant firm with a national reach, to conduct an independent appraisal of the drinking water infrastructure in its service territory.
This announcement comes as a significant development in WANS’s ongoing efforts to transfer responsibility from the for-profit enterprise, Liberty Utilities.
Daniel Dubois, director of external affairs for the Suffolk County Water Authority and the public relations director for WANS, explained that the selection of Raftelis was a crucial step in the broader process of transferring water assets. Dubois emphasized Raftelis’ national and international experience, positioning them as a strong contender in the bidding process.
“We could not be more thrilled to bring Raftelis on board to help us achieve our mission,” John Vasilakis, a WANS board members, wrote in a statement. “This is a highly respected organization with decades of experience in the water utility industry.” He added Raftelis’s expertise will ensure a thorough and unbiased appraisal of Liberty’s assets, setting the stage for negotiations that prioritize the community’s interests.
Raftelis specializes in assisting water utilities with services such as appraisals, organizational development, strategic planning, and executive recruitment. With a track record of working with over 1,500 public agencies and utilities across the United States, Raftelis is equipped to support WANS in the municipalization process according to Dubois.
In an effort to provide context, Dubois outlined the overall process, indicating that the appraisal conducted by Raftelis is a vital component of the negotiation process with Liberty Utilities. The Public Service Commission laid out specific steps for municipalization, one of which was the hiring of an independent appraiser.
The Raftelis appraisal is expected to be completed within 90 days of the contract signing, with negotiations between the Water Authority and Liberty set to follow. Dubois stressed that both parties would have their own appraisals, and the negotiation process would involve reconciling differences to reach an agreement on the transfer of assets.
“The goal of hiring a financial consultant firm, or in this case, an appraiser, is crucial in providing an independent evaluation of the assets,” Dubois clarified. “This appraisal will play a significant role in the negotiations between the Water Authority and Liberty.”
The broader context for these developments lies in WANS’s mission to address longstanding concerns raised by residents. For nearly a decade, residents have advocated for municipalization due to high rates and inadequate services provided by Liberty Utilities and its predecessor. Established in 2022, WANS was created to explore the transfer of the responsibility of supplying drinking water from a for-profit company to a municipal entity.
In addition to the appointment of Raftelis, WANS revealed its commitment to building a robust operation for the future. The board, at its Oct. 24 meeting, voted to seek outside legal counsel and an independent auditor. These measures are aimed at strengthening WANS as an independent entity and further prepare for negotiations with Liberty Utilities.
“The board hopes to retain both services by the end of the year,” Vasilakis stated, emphasizing the importance of legal counsel in future negotiations and the significance of an independent auditor in ensuring transparency and accountability in WANS’s operations.
The residents of Sea Cliff and parts of Glen Cove, Old Brookville, Roslyn Harbor, Glen Head, and Glenwood Landing anticipate positive changes as WANS strives to secure the best deal for the community and enhance the quality of drinking water services in the region.
For more information on WANS, their meeting schedule and how to participate, visit their website at WANorthShoreNY.gov.